Staying safe at university
Read our guide to student safety and security at university and find out the things you need to look out for while you're away at university.
It’s estimated that a third of UK students become a victim of crime – mainly theft and burglary – with about 20% of student robberies occurring in the first six weeks of the academic year.
Students with expensive equipment are seen as rich pickings by petty criminals. Take care of your belongings, particularly in first year as freshers can be easy targets.
Many universities and students’ unions will offer advice on personal safety, taking care of your belongings and how to ensure that your accommodation is safe and secure.
Familiarise yourself with our information and top safety tips to safeguard you and your property.
Top tips to staying safe
Simple precautions don’t cost much time or money. Don’t act after the event, or wait until something has been stolen. Be proactive, starting with our suggested tips:
- Take responsibility for yourself
- Have precautions in place when going out – especially if you're alone
- Watch how much you drink – your friends too
- Register your belongings
- Insure your possessions
- Make sure your house is secure
- Be extra wary of your car or bike
- Keep personal details safe
- Install security software on laptop
- Be extra careful with money – cash and online
Personal safety at university
Fully charge going out at night, in case of emergency or if you lose the people you're with.
Try to leave a pub or club with friends, keep money you need to get home separate so you don’t spend it, and pre-book a licensed taxi or know the locations of official taxi ranks. If you use Uber you can share your location and driver's details with a friend.
Have precautions in place when going out
Know how you'll get home, and plan ahead if you’re going somewhere unfamiliar. Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
Avoid badly lit areas, parks, alleyways and underpasses if you have to walk home. When alone on public transport, sit near the driver. Avoid using your phone in isolated places, as it can distract you from your surroundings.
Carrying a personal alarm with you is a good idea – most see these as female accessories, but figures show that male students are at higher risk of being attacked in the street.
Watch how much you drink
It’s easier to do something risky or foolish when you're drunk. You’re also more likely to lose your belongings. Eat before you drink alcohol, and drink plenty of water between drinks to help you not get drunk. Keep track of what and how much you’re drinking, never leave your drink unattended, and don't accept a drink from a stranger as it may be spiked.
Student safety and security
Register your belongings
Mark your possessions with a UV pen – your student registration number and the initials of your university makes a unique number.
Dial *#06# for your unique mobile registration (IMEI) number. This is the first thing police will check for when recovering stolen property. Register your mobile’s IMEI and the serial numbers of your electronic equipment on Immobilise. This is a free UK property register, supported by police forces and used by them, insurers and the second-hand trade. You can also register your bike and other valuable items.
In the event of an item being lost or stolen, you can register this on the Immobilise website. Contact your network provider to block the phone. The same applies to your bank if you lose your bank card.
Over half the students who fall prey to theft and burglary haven't got adequate personal belongings cover. Insurance means that if something happens, you don’t have to pay a ridiculous amount of money to get your possessions replaced.
Make sure your house is secure
Ensure outside doors all have working and adequate locks. Fit any vulnerable downstairs windows with key-operated locks.
Keep valuables out of sight and in a secure place. Consider secure storage for expensive items if you're leaving these during the holidays.
Be extra wary of your car or bike
Invest in a good quality bike lock and use it. Leave your bike in designated, well-lit public bike areas and lock it to something immovable. Lock it at home too, if you keep it in a garage or halls of residence – around half of stolen bikes are taken from the owner’s home. In the UK, a bicycle is stolen on average every few minutes and it's often difficult for the police to identify the owner. Take a photo of your bike and the frame number.
Immobilise your car whenever you leave it even for a few minutes. Think about where you park. Stealing from vehicles is a major problem and you should routinely remove any gadgets or electronics, such as a sat-nav, and store them in a safe place.
Keep personal details safe
Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to identity theft or be casual with your personal details.
Keep a safe record of info e.g. driving license, passport details. Some banks and credit card companies offer a registration service but it's often chargeable.
Be suspicious of calls or messages that ask for any personal information, passwords, PIN numbers or account details. Don't give out such information unless you are 100% sure of the validity of the request.
Destroy papers carrying bank details, as well as your kept receipts, and destroy old cards by cutting through the chip and magnetic strip. Contact your bank straight away if you lose your card.
When you move house or flat, inform all the organisations you deal with of your new address and arrange for the post office to forward on your mail. This avoids strangers receiving your personal information.
Install security software on laptop
Don’t assume you'll never get hacked. Install security software on your computer and always carry it hidden inside a sports bag rather than in its own obvious case.
Be extra careful with money
Keep an eye out at a cash machine for signs of interference before using it. Never accept a stranger’s help when using a cash machine. Be aware of people crowding around you and if you can, draw out money in the day. Never let your bank or credit cards out of sight in shops and restaurants to prevent cloning.
When shopping online, check the website for a padlock or unbroken key icon. Websites with ‘https:’ in the URL are secure, but if you don't see the final 's' when you come to checkout, stop the transaction immediately. The VeriSignTrust seal means that the website company's identity has been verified and that the website has passed a daily malware scan.
There are many sources of information to help you stay safe, including:
- If you're affected by sexual harassment or violence, find links on our site for help and support
- CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, is the national centre dedicated to eradicating sexual abuse of children and young people
- Get Safe Online offers free expert advice including, for example, how to avoid rogue apps
- The Thinkukknow website is a guide to internet safety and safe surfing